Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Painted Ladies

Living in a place for a long time can often bring real rewards. I come to the path leading down to western side of Limeslade Bay each autumn to look for painted lady butterflies, knowing that I’ll almost certainly be lucky. On warm, sunny days they’re usually feeding on the flowers growing from the wall, and in early morning, before the heat of the sun wakes them up properly, they’re very tame. The two this morning are perfect, newly emerged and quite beautiful, and they’ll soon be off south on their incredible migration.

I nestle into the rocks behind the storm beach and look out to sea. Gulls silhouetted against the hazy morning light pass to and fro, and a small boat, filled with hopeful fishermen, heads west. It’s high tide, the sand is covered, and the only place accessible for feeding pied wagtails is the wrack of kelp on the pebbly shore. Several dart about in search of flies, but rock pipits, seemingly more suited to the shore, catch more sand hoppers than flies. A white wagtail appears as if from nowhere; we get just a few of these continental migrants in autumn, and I sometimes have difficulty identifying the juveniles. Side by side with pied wagtails like this, they’re easy, and I even get a reasonable photograph when it comes close.

My peace is disturbed by a man and his dog, he doesn’t stay long, but the birds are gone, and I return to the painted ladies to try once more for that elusive perfect photograph.

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